When I was a psychologist, I used to reassure myself that I could do the job only because human behaviour was predictable. Forecasting is what my father used to do, too, tapping the “glass” each morning and muttering about “rising” or “falling” in a way which I did not understand until I inherited his father’s 30 inches of real mercury.
I no longer regularly tap the glass (or adjust the vernier) because I get a much better idea of what is happening to the weather by looking at the jet stream on the internet. Only a decade or so ago, when the jet stream remained north of Scotland most of the time, weather forecasting was about highs and lows, warm and cold fronts. I suspect the predictive value of that has diminished greatly, to be replaced by whether the jet stream, which has started to wander, is north or south: it has been north of us recently only for the warm Bank Holiday weekend. When it runs through France, we get Scottish weather. For most of last winter, the warming Arctic pushed the jet stream to Gibraltar and we had colder weather as a result.
This month has seen what may well turn out to be the most cataclysmic event of our lifetimes: no, not the resignation of Alex Ferguson, but CO₂ concentrations in the Earth’s atmosphere reaching 400 parts per million for the first time for 4.5 million years. Last time it was that high the world was a very different place, there was no Greenland ice sheet and sea levels were much higher.
Those are effects which are probably on their way. In the meantime and immediately, we may have to change our expectations of what a typical summer looks like. To adapt the nursery rhyme from little girls to summertime, when it’s hot, it will be very, very hot, and when it’s cold, it will be horrid.
This is likely to make life difficult for harbours – and agriculture and everything else, for that matter. However Salcombe has the advantage that there is lots to do without venturing beyond the bar. Our beaches are superb and it is so encouraging that the latest Good Beach Guide shows North and South Sands, and Mill Bay, as meeting the highest European standards of water quality. Moreover South Sands has qualified for a Blue Flag for the third year running.
And talking about a third term, I have been lucky enough to be re-appointed to the Harbour Board, so these columns will continue for a little while yet, whatever the weather.